*More than 35 years ago, I was one of a sold-out crowd at southern Cali’s Universal Amphitheater to see Natalie Cole … and an opening act whose name I couldn’t even pronounce, Al Something Or Other? When he finished, I was drenched with awe, amazement and an inexplicable sense of exhilaration … I became an overnight fan of Al Jarreau.
About 15 years later, ironically in Burbank (just minuets from the venue where I initially witnessed this genius at work) I was gifted again with the opportunity to work at Warner Bros Records. The direct responsibility of promoting and marketing the likes of an already internationally dubbed icon was a fanciful notion turned into an envied reality.
Over the years, our professional platforms crescendoed into a truly remarkable personal one. When I lost my mom in 1998, Al’s enormous bouquet of exotic flowers were the first to be delivered to the site of her memorial service. Days later I asked the Wisconsin Whiz Kid if he actually ever met her? His reply: “No, all I needed to know was that she was your mother!”
Although the Warner-Ostin years have faded a bit, the Jarreau-Jones connection has endured the test of time, albeit, at this moment I’ll have to “… learn to laugh like Pagliacci with tears in my eyes” (lyric from “Masquerade …”). The term “real deal” is over used. For me, Al Something or the Other became Al (is and will always be) Something Else!
That signature smile wasn’t just always on his face; I’m sure it was even bigger and brighter in his heart. And like his one-of-a-kind vocal rendition of “Take Five,” Al’s performance of life was of a different measure … he knew when to sing and when to listen. It’s a lesson in making music as much as it is as making each other smile.
Thank you, Al Jarreau, my encore friend.
Our prayers and well wishes for strength and comfort go out to his family, friends and fans at this especially difficult time.
Pssst .., Al, say hello to George and Joe …..
Chris Jones, a native New Yorker residing in Los Angeles has written consistently about his observations of ethics and culture in the urban community. A political science enthusiast and staunch supporter of voter registration, his professional background includes senior level appointments for promotion and marketing responsibilities at Island, Motown and Warner Bros record companies, respectively. Response to his commentary can be forwarded to: [email protected].